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THEY'VE GOT 'GAME'

Childhood pals Gaudreau and Robinson - along with their brothers - will play Fortnite to raise funds for Hockey Fights Cancer

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

The tight, brotherly bond survived the moves and winding career paths.

If anything, it's flourished over the years.

And, now, the decades.

So, not even a global pandemic could stop childhood pals Johnny Gaudreau and Buddy Robinson from recreating the comradery, laughs and playful salvos of their usual summertime gatherings. 

 

Listen to the guys on the Firestarter Podcast

 

"I set up a trivia night," Gaudreau said of his recent efforts over the trendy Zoom app with childhood friends. "There were like 10 of us. Four rounds, four categories. 

"It was great. I got to see all the guys and we talked a little bit."

Robinson couldn't help himself. 

"Yeah. Surprisingly successful," he teased. 

"You know what? I was surprised," Gaudreau replied. "I used this website called Trivia Maker. My older sister, Kristen, she showed me how to use it. I played with her group of friends once and was like, 'Well, this is perfect.' Got to throw in some personal questions, some hockey questions, some celebrity questions and stuff like that. We're going to do it again (tonight). 

"It was fun - a lot of fun."

Especially for him - the guy in charge lobbing the 'gotcha' queries like candy on Halloween night. 

When asked what - if anything - baffled the group, Robinson chimed in, flogging the quizmaster's editorial choices.

"This guy asked how old the oldest panda was to ever live," he laughed. "Everyone was looking at each other like, 'How the hell are we supposed to know that?!' What was it, 115?"

Gaudreau fired back with a devilish grin revealing his hand: "I can't remember," he said. "It was either 114 or 116."

(114 is correct, but there's a catch. That number is the human equivalent, or 'panda years.' The eldest panda - Jia Jia from Hong Kong - passed away recently after 38 trips around the sun.)

"I was just looking up questions on Google," Gaudreau laughed. "I didn't know what was true, what wasn't true. Guys are like, 'That is FALSE, that is not true!' I'm just trying to have a little fun here. Give me a break. Then, Buddy's texting me and was like, 'I got 14 points, not 13!' I'm like, 'C'mon. I've got 10 other people to answer right now with like 20 questions."

"I just want to win, bro, I just want to win," Robinson countered.

Understandable. 

Hockey or no, that competitive spirit lives on and burns brighter than ever in their summertime pads.

 

Video: Gaudreau, Robinson on streaming Fortnite for charity

 

What better way to alleviate the stress than to apply that valor, virtually?

Beginning on April 27, Gaudreau and Robinson will be teaming up again - but this time, in the fictional space, and all in an effort to raise money for a cause close to both: Hockey Fights Cancer. 

Together with their brothers, Matthew Gaudreau and Eric Robinson, the childhood chums will play the wildly popular shooter-survival game, Fortnite, live on Twitch and CalgaryFlames.com/JohnnyAndBuddy - and in the process, encourage donations in support of research programs in both Canada and the U.S. 

In addition to having access to both players' live-streams, that page will act as a portal where anyone can watch, interact with fellow fans and the players themselves, and gift any amount directly to HFC.  

All money raised will be split equally between the two branches. 

"I have a good friend whose mom works for the American Cancer Society and they have a tournament going on right now called 'Gamers vs. Cancer,'" Robinson said. "They're trying to raise money through colleges playing against each other. She got in touch with me, seeing if I'd like to play and do my own thing. I thought, 'Hey, I play this game enough. We might as well try and make some use out of it.'"

Neither is a rookie when it comes to the world of Fortnite. Turns out, playing the game was a daily ritual during last year's off-season. 

But pros, they're not - and that's made for some humorous banter on both sides of the friendship.

"We play together a lot," Gaudreau said. "Last summer, we were able to work out and then we'd all race home, have a quick lunch and then we'd all hop on together. We've been doing it for a couple years now. The communication is there, but I can tell … Me and my brother, we fight a little bit when we're playing together. But I kind of stay away from Buddy and Eric. It's mostly compliments (between) those two, but then when one brother messes up, there's a lot of criticism. 

"We like to keep it light and have a good time."

 

 

The gameplay will begin with Johnny and Buddy challenging other online players, but could soon branch out and involve other members of the Flames and Stockton Heat. 

By the sounds of it, the game has taken over the dressing rooms, with Rasmus Andersson, Sam Bennett, Andrew Mangiapane ("But he's awful," Gaudreau chirped) and others representing the Flames, and about 10 diehards over in Stockton. 

"Czarny (Austin Czarnik) will be disappointed if he's not mentioned, so we'll give him a shot, too," Robinson said. "He's a good player." 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has a grip on our planet, video games have become an outlet for many looking to stay busy. 

Hockey players are no different. 

But they also recognize the platform they're fortunate to stand on; how transforming their spare time into this worthwhile endeavour can make a difference in the lives of their neighbours and do some real good in communities across North America. 

"It's one of those things that with the world right now, people not being sure of what's going to happen day-to-day, it's easy to overlook it, Robinson said. "But people are still dealing with major problems like cancer and that kind of stuff, too.

"That doesn't just stop because there's another crisis going on. 

"Myself, personally, I've had some family members pass from cancer and others that have had it in the past. It's something that I think affects everyone in a big or small way. It's an easy charity to get behind - they're always doing good work, so for us to be able do a little part of that and hopefully make the stream successful, it's going to mean a lot and hopefully a long way for some families."

'Community' has never been more important. 

For these two, it's the very foundation of their friendship. 

Having met for the first time more than 20 years ago, growing up playing together at Gloucester Catholic High, and now - only a few months ago - hooking up to score a beauty in the world's best league, a sturdy support system was always close-by. 

"We've always been close, which is hard now," Gaudreau said. "We have a friend group at home now - about 10, 12 of us - and I know the first thing they wanted to do was to see me and Buddy after getting a chance to play on the same line together. 

"Now we're all stuck in our homes and can't really do anything."

Except they can. 

And are. 

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